Category Archives: Staff Picks

Staff Pick: The Best Man

Staff Pick: The Best Man

The Best Man

Archer has four important role models in his life–his dad, his grandfather, his uncle Paul, and his favorite teacher, Mr. McLeod. When Uncle Paul and Mr. McLeod get married, Archer’s sixth-grade year becomes one he’ll never forget.

Archer Magill is in middle school and already he’s been in two weddings.  The first one (he was a ring bearer) was a “train wreck”.  He was six, the suit was white, the pants too tight, and, maybe, just maybe, in retrospect, hiding under the porch wasn’t such a good idea.

First grade brought its own challenges, including a bully that Archer’s Uncle Paul set straight.  As Archer moves through the grades, he has three people he aspires to be like: his grandpa, his dad, and Uncle Paul.  Then he hits fifth grade, gets a student teacher named Mr. McLeod, and has a fourth name to add to the list.

School days can be tough on anybody, and Archer has his share of days when he has to navigate treacherous territory.  The ground is always shifting and just when he thinks he has things figured out, he gets another curveball; nothing and nobody is exactly what he thought.  Uncle Paul is a prime example of that.  Archer is in middle school when he writes this book, and has just been in a second wedding.  This time he was best man.  And yes, he does feel like he’s getting there, that he’s learning what it means to be a man.  But he has also learned, “It’ll take the time it takes.”  And he’s okay with that.

Recommended by: Cheryl Holtsclaw – West Indianapolis Library

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Staff Pick: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

Staff Pick: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase

A witty and suspenseful tale of a brutal governess and the three brave young souls under her care–Bonnie, Sylvia, and Simon–who together must save the Willoughby estate from the destructive effects of her terrible reign.

When I picked up The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, I knew it had been around a long time, but I thought I would give an “oldie” a chance . . . 12 books later, I’m ready to recommend these titles by Joan Aiken to anyone who loves wicked mean bad guys, occasional witches, (both good and bad) solid and true underdogs, and tales of adventure with suspense and . . . well, yes, occasionally there are gruesome parts when the bad guys seem to be getting ahead.

Set in London in a period in the early 19th Century during the fictional reign of King James III before cars and airplanes, the characters travel by carriage, ship, and on foot to realistically imagined locations speaking in dialects that reflect social classes in England and surrounding countries. Dido, Simon, and the other characters in this series are often witty in the gritty and absurd situations that occur in their lives. Like The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, or Peter and the Starcatchers, these books will grab you and keep you up reading at night long after your bed time.

IndyPL has these titles in audio CD, eAudio, eBook, paper and hardcover book formats. On a side note, The Whispering Mountain is considered #0 in the series.

Recommended by: Raylene Jordan – The Learning Curve @Central Library

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Staff Pick: The Unofficial Crafting Guide to the World of Harry Potter

Staff Pick: The Unofficial Crafting Guide to the World of Harry Potter

The Unofficial Crafting Guide to the World of Harry Potter

Just in time for Halloween (and the holidays) comes Jamie Harrington’s The Unofficial Guide to Crafting the World of Harry Potter.  Do you have a Harry Potter fan in your life? Need something to add to your costume?  Want a fun craft project for over holiday break?  Need a little add-to gift?  This book is for you.

Many craft books for kids sound great in theory, but aren’t very accessible for children. This one is different. Most of the crafts deal with either heat (hot glue guns/ microwave) or paint, but even young children could make these with adult supervision. The crafts will appeal to a huge range of ages and skill levels.  Adults will find some of the crafts appealing, as well–I am definitely making a wand pencil and spellbook! The crafts are useful, too–not the throw-away busywork crafts that are sometimes aimed at children. Along with the instructions for the projects (which include plenty of pictures), Harrington includes tips and ideas for making the project original or adapting the basic idea for a different project.

Another thing that stands out to me is how beautifully photographed and designed this book is.  While it is unauthorized, the feel of the book is very official. The pages look like worn papyrus and the graphics are believably Potter-esque.  Some crafts included: dementor melt and pour soap, marauder’s map mug, house color tye-die shirts, snitch necklace, and a Monster Book of Monsters tablet cover.

Recommended by: Jennifer Newswanger-Smith – East Washington Library

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Staff Pick: My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

Staff Pick: My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

Tara Feinstein, proud of both her East Indian and Jewish heritage, questions what it means to have a bat mitzvah and deals with her own doubts about her faith.

Like more and more American kids, Tara struggles to find her identity among two cultures: one Jewish, one East Indian. At the same time, she is going through the universal experience of being a teenager: learning to find her own voice within her family, navigating changing relationships and owning up to her mistakes. If you feel like a minority in your school or if you have diverse classmates you are curious about, this is a great read. Particularly fun if you like languages (includes a Hindi-Hebrew-Yiddish-English glossary at the back)!

Recommended by: Danielle Wilkins – College Avenue Branch

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Staff Pick: A Time to be Brave

Staff Pick: A Time to be Brave

A Time to be Brave

David and his family live in Denmark during the Nazi occupation, until September 1943 when their neighbors help smuggle them to Sweden to escape Hitler’s orders to send the Danish Jews to concentration camps. Includes honey cake recipe, World War II timeline, and “the story behind the story.”

“Originally published in Canada and Great Britain under the title, Honey Cake, A Time to Be Brave, this title takes place in Copenhagen, Denmark during the Nazi occupation. The soldiers and their new rules make Denmark’s citizens nervous, especially David Nathan who struggles to understand how he can be courageous during this period. David is asked to keep a secret that may get him and his family into trouble with the Nazis, but if he is brave it could save many lives.

This story was a straightforward and uncomplicated look at the Nazi occupation from a Jewish family’s perspective. Stuchner makes it easier to process the information at the reading level this book is directed towards, making it a good introduction to World War II without being too heavy for young readers. Part of the Stepping Stones chapter books, this title puts the reader in David’s place and shows us how confusing the Nazi occupation might be to a younger child with just enough danger to remind them that he lives in a war zone. This is a great story for children interested in a simple look into this time period.”

Recommended by: Stephanie Roell – Haughville Library

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